Bias Blind Spots

A list is a powerful thing. Wikipedia is full of them. I am working on a poster version of this one. These are cognitive biases, some crucial characteristics of what we might call human nature. Imagine how self-aware we could become if we internalized this list?

In these modern times of political correctness, peace, and unity, the word bias has gotten a bad rap. As you read this list though, keep in mind that at some point in our evolution each of these biases was most likely an adaptation of some kind that conferred survival advantages to those who displayed it. Inhabiting organismic time and space, we had (and have) to make quick decisions. These tendencies allow us to make such on-the-spot decisions. We are heuristic beasts.

I mean not to justify any of the uglier cultural forms these tendencies have taken or say that, because they’re part of our cultural / genetic inheritance, then so be it, we’re stuck. I do mean to remind myself of the quietly operating forces of human nature always at work during day-to-day decision making.

Decision-making and behavioral biases

Bandwagon effect
the tendency to do (or believe) things because many other people do (or believe) the same. Related to groupthink and herd behaviour.
Base rate fallacy
ignoring available statistical data in favor of particulars.
Bias blind spot
the tendency not to compensate for one’s own cognitive biases.
Choice-supportive bias
the tendency to remember one’s choices as better than they actually were.
Confirmation bias
the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.
Congruence bias
the tendency to test hypotheses exclusively through direct testing, in contrast to tests of possible alternative hypotheses.
Conservatism bias
the tendency to ignore the consequence of new evidence. (Related to base rate fallacy.)[1]
Contrast effect
the enhancement or diminishing of a weight or other measurement when compared with a recently observed contrasting object.
Déformation professionnelle
the tendency to look at things according to the conventions of one’s own profession, forgetting any broader point of view.
Distinction bias
the tendency to view two options as more dissimilar when evaluating them simultaneously than when evaluating them separately.[2]
Endowment effect
the fact that people often demand much more to give up an object than they would be willing to pay to acquire it
Expectation bias
the tendency for experimenters to believe, certify, and publish data that agree with their expectations for the outcome of an experiment, and to disbelieve, discard, or downgrade the corresponding weightings for data that appear to conflict with those expectations.
Extraordinarity bias
the tendency to value an object more than others in the same category as a result of an extraordinarity of that object that does not, in itself, change the value.
Extreme aversion
the tendency to avoid extremes, being more likely to choose an option if it is the intermediate choice.
Focusing effect
prediction bias occurring when people place too much importance on one aspect of an event; causes error in accurately predicting the utility of a future outcome.
by using a too narrow approach or description of the situation or issue. Also framing effect — drawing different conclusions based on how data are presented.
Hyperbolic discounting
the tendency for people to have a stronger preference for more immediate payoffs relative to later payoffs, where the tendency increases the closer to the present both payoffs are.
Illusion of control
the tendency for human beings to believe they can control or at least influence outcomes that they clearly cannot.
Impact bias
the tendency for people to overestimate the length or the intensity of the impact of future feeling states.
Information bias
the tendency to seek information even when it cannot affect action.
Irrational escalation
the tendency to make irrational decisions based upon rational decisions in the past or to justify actions already taken.
Loss aversion
the disutility of giving up an object is greater than the utility associated with acquiring it
Mere exposure effect
the tendency for people to express undue liking for things merely because they are familiar with them.
Moral credential effect
the tendency of a track record of non-prejudice to increase subsequent prejudice.
Need for closure
the need to reach a verdict in important matters; to have an answer and to escape the feeling of doubt and uncertainty. The personal context (time or social pressure) might increase this bias.
Neglect of probability
the tendency to completely disregard probability when making a decision under uncertainty.
Not Invented Here
the tendency to ignore that a product or solution already exists, because its source is seen as an “enemy” or as “inferior”.
Omission bias
the tendency to judge harmful actions as worse, or less moral, than equally harmful omissions (inactions).
Outcome bias
the tendency to judge a decision by its eventual outcome instead of based on the quality of the decision at the time it was made.
Planning fallacy
the tendency to underestimate task-completion times.
Post-purchase rationalization
the tendency to persuade oneself through rational argument that a purchase was a good value.
Pseudocertainty effect
the tendency to make risk-averse choices if the expected outcome is positive, but make risk-seeking choices to avoid negative outcomes.
the urge to do the opposite of what someone wants you to do out of a need to resist a perceived attempt to constrain your freedom of choice.
Selective perception
the tendency for expectations to affect perception.
Status quo bias
the tendency for people to like things to stay relatively the same (see also loss aversion, endowment effect, and system justification)
Von Restorff effect
the tendency for an item that “stands out like a sore thumb” to be more likely to be remembered than other items.
Wishful thinking
the formation of beliefs and the making of decisions according to what is pleasing to imagine instead of by appeal to evidence or rationality.
Zero-risk bias
preference for reducing a small risk to zero over a greater reduction in a larger risk.

Probability and Belief

Ambiguity effect
the avoidance of options for which missing information makes the probability seem “unknown”.
the tendency to rely too heavily, or “anchor,” on a past reference or on one trait or piece of information when making decisions.
Attentional bias
neglect of relevant data when making judgments of a correlation or association.
Authority bias
the tendency to value an ambiguous stimulus (e.g., an art performance) according to the opinion of someone who is seen as an authority on the topic.
Availability heuristic
estimating what is more likely by what is more available in memory, which is biased toward vivid, unusual, or emotionally charged examples.
Availability cascade
a self-reinforcing process in which a collective belief gains more and more plausibility through its increasing repetition in public discourse (or “repeat something long enough and it will become true”).
Clustering illusion
the tendency to see patterns where actually none exist.
Capability bias
The tendency to believe that the closer average performance is to a target, the tighter the distribution of the data set.
Conjunction fallacy
the tendency to assume that specific conditions are more probable than general ones.
Gambler’s fallacy
the tendency to think that future probabilities are altered by past events, when in reality they are unchanged. Results from an erroneous conceptualization of the normal distribution. For example, “I’ve flipped heads with this coin five times consecutively, so the chance of tails coming out on the sixth flip is much greater than heads.”
Hawthorne effect
the tendency of people to perform or perceive differently when they know that they are being observed.
Hindsight bias
sometimes called the “I-knew-it-all-along” effect, the inclination to see past events as being predictable.
Illusory correlation
beliefs that inaccurately suppose a relationship between a certain type of action and an effect.
Ludic fallacy
the analysis of chance related problems according to the belief that the unstructured randomness found in life resembles the structured randomness found in games, ignoring the non-gaussian distribution of many real-world results.
Neglect of prior base rates effect
the tendency to neglect known odds when reevaluating odds in light of weak evidence.
Observer-expectancy effect
when a researcher expects a given result and therefore unconsciously manipulates an experiment or misinterprets data in order to find it (see also subject-expectancy effect).
Optimism bias
the systematic tendency to be over-optimistic about the outcome of planned actions.
Ostrich effect
ignoring an obvious (negative) situation.
Overconfidence effect
excessive confidence in one’s own answers to questions. For example, for certain types of question, answers that people rate as “99% certain” turn out to be wrong 40% of the time.
Positive outcome bias
a tendency in prediction to overestimate the probability of good things happening to them
Primacy effect
the tendency to weigh initial events more than subsequent events.
Recency effect
the tendency to weigh recent events more than earlier events (see also peak-end rule).
Disregard of regression toward the mean
the tendency to expect extreme performance to continue.
Reminiscence bump
the effect that people tend to recall more personal events from adolescence and early adulthood than from other lifetime periods.
Rosy retrospection
the tendency to rate past events more positively than they had actually rated them when the event occurred.
Selection bias
a distortion of evidence or data that arises from the way that the data are collected.
expecting a member of a group to have certain characteristics without having actual information about that individual.
Subadditivity effect
the tendency to judge probability of the whole to be less than the probabilities of the parts.
Subjective validation
perception that something is true if a subject’s belief demands it to be true. Also assigns perceived connections between coincidences.
Telescoping effect
the effect that recent events appear to have occurred more remotely and remote events appear to have occurred more recently.
Texas sharpshooter fallacy
the fallacy of selecting or adjusting a hypothesis after the data is collected, making it impossible to test the hypothesis fairly. Refers to the concept of firing shots at a barn door, drawing a circle around the best group, and declaring that to be the target.

Social or attributional biases

Actor-observer bias
the tendency for explanations of other individuals’ behaviors to overemphasize the influence of their personality and underemphasize the influence of their situation (see also fundamental attribution error). However, this is coupled with the opposite tendency for the self in that explanations for our own behaviors overemphasize the influence of our situation and underemphasize the influence of our own personality.
Dunning-Kruger effect
“…when people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it. Instead, …they are left with the mistaken impression that they are doing just fine.”
Egocentric bias
occurs when people claim more responsibility for themselves for the results of a joint action than an outside observer would.
Forer effect (aka Barnum Effect)
the tendency to give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people. For example, horoscopes.
False consensus effect
the tendency for people to overestimate the degree to which others agree with them.
Fundamental attribution error
the tendency for people to over-emphasize personality-based explanations for behaviors observed in others while under-emphasizing the role and power of situational influences on the same behavior (see also actor-observer bias, group attribution error, positivity effect, and negativity effect).
Halo effect
the tendency for a person’s positive or negative traits to “spill over” from one area of their personality to another in others’ perceptions of them (see also physical attractiveness stereotype).
Herd instinct
Common tendency to adopt the opinions and follow the behaviors of the majority to feel safer and to avoid conflict.
Illusion of asymmetric insight
people perceive their knowledge of their peers to surpass their peers’ knowledge of them.
Illusion of transparency
people overestimate others’ ability to know them, and they also overestimate their ability to know others.
Illusory superiority
perceiving oneself as having desirable qualities to a greater degree than other people. Also known as Superiority bias.
Ingroup bias
the tendency for people to give preferential treatment to others they perceive to be members of their own groups.
Just-world phenomenon
the tendency for people to believe that the world is “just” and therefore people “get what they deserve.”
Lake Wobegon effect
the phenomenon that a supermajority of people report themselves as above average in desirable qualities (see also worse-than-average effect and optimism bias).
Money illusion
an irrational notion that the arbitrary values of currency, fiat or otherwise, have an actual immutable value.
Notational bias
a form of cultural bias in which a notation induces the appearance of a nonexistent natural law.
Outgroup homogeneity bias
individuals see members of their own group as being relatively more varied than members of other groups.
Projection bias
the tendency to unconsciously assume that others share the same or similar thoughts, beliefs, values, or positions.
Self-serving bias
the tendency to claim more responsibility for successes than failures. It may also manifest itself as a tendency for people to evaluate ambiguous information in a way beneficial to their interests (see also group-serving bias).
Self-fulfilling prophecy
the tendency to engage in behaviors that elicit results which will (consciously or not) confirm our beliefs.
System justification
the tendency to defend and bolster the status quo. Existing social, economic, and political arrangements tend to be preferred, and alternatives disparaged sometimes even at the expense of individual and collective self-interest. (See also status quo bias.)
Trait ascription bias
the tendency for people to view themselves as relatively variable in terms of personality, behavior and mood while viewing others as much more predictable.
Ultimate attribution error
Similar to the fundamental attribution error, in this error a person is likely to make an internal attribution to an entire group instead of the individuals within the group.

Memory bias

Consistency bias
incorrectly remembering one’s past attitudes and behaviour as resembling present attitudes and behaviour.
a form of misattribution where a memory is mistaken for imagination.
Egocentric bias
recalling the past in a self-serving manner, e.g. remembering one’s exam grades as being better than they were, or remembering a caught fish as being bigger than it was
False memory
confusion of imagination with memory, or the confusion of true memories with false memories.
Hindsight bias
filtering memory of past events through present knowledge, so that those events look more predictable than they actually were; also known as the ‘I-knew-it-all-along effect’.
Self-serving bias
perceiving oneself responsible for desirable outcomes but not responsible for undesirable ones.
a form of misattribution where ideas suggested by a questioner are mistaken for memory.

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3 Responses to “Bias Blind Spots”

  1. Alita says:

    bias = predilection

  2. jeff says:

    Gotta spend more time on this list, but
    1) It would be cool to come up with an evolutionary sentence for the origin of each one of these, the initial adaptive advantage it offered.
    2) If you could localize the first species in our chain that had that bias, it would be an awesome extra channel of info on the wall.


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